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New UT Program Takes the Fight to Invasive Species

Before crushing those pesky fire ants crawling across your porch, did you ever consider the critters’ effect on the ecosystem? The University of Texas’ newly formed Texas Invasive Species program has $2.7 million dollars to answer those questions and more.

The program, formed with a six-year grant from the Lee and Ramona Bass Foundation, utilizes researchers from the Brackenridge Field Laboratory to investigate and protect Texas's ecosystems from exotic invasive species.

Lab director Lawrence Gilbert says the invasive species program is the continuation of previous work – UT’s Fire Ant lab – and related work to find natural methods of controlling invasive species.

Over the next six years, the program will focus on conducting research and gathering information about organisms that pose threats to ecological systems in Texas  – species like Buffelgrass and the Tawny Crazy Ant (which are already in many parts of Texas) and the Cactoblastis moth (which has yet to reach the Lone Star State). 

Gilbert is thankful for the grant, but says the $2.7 million only covers half of what the program needs; the rest will have to be raised from private donors.

The idea, Gilbert says, “is to try and create something that wouldn’t just be one professor's research project that is funded and would disappear, but is more connected with the field lab and with the University of Texas. And would continue into the future.”